Pubdate: Wed, 01 Sep 2004
Source: Hill, The (US DC)
Copyright: 2004 The Hill
Author: Jonathan E. Kaplan
Bookmark: (Soros, George)


Billionaire Demands Public Apology From the House Speaker

George Soros, the billionaire financier who has given millions of
dollars to liberal and Democratic-leaning advocacy groups, launched a
blistering counterattack on Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)
yesterday, saying he should be "ashamed" of allegations he made Sunday.

Hastert had suggested that Soros's wealth came from criminals, and in
a letter Soros challenged the Speaker to substantiate his claims or
publicly apologize.

In a tartly worded demand faxed to Hastert, Soros wrote: "Your recent
comments implying that I am receiving funds from drug cartels are not
only untrue, but also deeply offensive. You do a discredit to yourself
and to the dignity of your office by engaging in these dishonest smear
tactics. You should be ashamed.

"I must respectfully insist that you either substantiate these claims
- -- which you cannot do because they are false -- or publicly apologize
for attempting to defame my character and damage my

The spat began in an interview on Fox News with anchor Chris Wallace,
in which Hastert said, "You know, I don't know where George Soros gets
his money. I don't know where -- if it comes overseas or from drug
groups or where it comes from. ..."

Asked if Soros had earned money from drug cartels, Hastert added,
"Well, that's what he's been for a number years -- George Soros has
been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he's got a lot
of ancillary interests out there. ... I'm saying I don't know where
groups -- could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we
don't know."

Soros, a Hungarian Jewish immigrant, earned billions from investments
and currency speculation. In 1992, he bet $10 billion that the British
central bank would devalue the pound. The gamble paid off and Soros
earned $650 million that year. Soros Fund Management LLC was hammered
in the late 1990s and Soros has since retired, although he remains

In 1993, he started the Open Society Institute, which promotes
democracy in Eastern Europe and around the world. He began funding
programs to reform the U.S. justice system several years later. As
part of that effort, he has funded marijuana-legalization referendums
in California and Arizona. Besides the Open Society Institute, Soros
is also a major contributor to the International Crisis Group, a
Brussels-based operation that monitors violence in global hot spots.

But he is most widely known in this election season as a big
contributor to, the Center for American Progress, a
Democratic think tank, and America Coming Together, a so-called 527
political outfit that is exempt from limits on campaign

John Feehery, a spokesman for Hastert, said, "George Soros has an
agenda. He supports the legalization of drugs, and the statement
stands. [Hastert] has been fighting Soros on this for years because it
is a character flaw. The Speaker thinks legalizing drugs is wrong."

Soros was unavailable for comment.

Documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) say
that no company official in Soros's investment fund is involved in a
criminal proceeding or a party to a civil proceeding.

Feehery cited no evidence and would not comment on whether Hastert
would ask law enforcement to investigate.

Soros told The Washington Post last year: "America, under Bush, is a
danger to the world. ... And I'm willing to put my money where my mouth

Conservatives have sought to discredit Soros by attacking his foreign
and Jewish roots and his support of liberal causes, and by saying that
his currency speculation actually hurt the very people he claims to
want to help.

"No other single person represents the symbol and the substance of
globalism more than this Hungarian-born descendant of Shylock. He is
the embodiment of the Merchant from Venice," wrote GOPAC, an
organization that helps elect GOP candidates, on its website last year.

In William Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice," Shylock was the Jewish
banker whose venality would not stop him from cutting human flesh to
repay loans.

Tony Blankley, the editorial-page editor of The Washington Times, said
Soros is "a robber baron, he's a pirate capitalist, and he's a
reckless man" in an interview on Fox News.

Democrats were quick to criticize Hastert's latest suggestion. "That's
totally absurd. It fits a pattern of simply throwing out whatever
slander occurs to them," the Republicans, said Matt Bennett, a
spokesman for the Democratic National Committee in New York. "This is
what the Republican leadership does. They lie about people." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake